Puerto Rico shows off communications wares at CaribeCom

A thriving Caribbean market for telecommunications and data-communications products was evidenced at the 18th annual CaribeCom show Feb. 14 to 16 at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, PR

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A thriving Caribbean market for telecommunications and data-communications products was evidenced at the 18th annual CaribeCom show Feb. 14 to 16 at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, PR. The show, which in May 1999 came under the ownership of PennWell Corp.'s Advanced Technology Div. (Nashua, NH), afforded Puerto Rican and international companies the opportunity to display their products and services.

Fifty companies exhibited their products and services, which included wireless telephones, Internet security software, network testing equipment, routers, e-commerce software, and even laser printers. In addition, Internet service providers, competitive local- exchange carriers (CLECs), and premises-network manufacturers were well-represented. Among the premises-network vendors and distributors were 3M Telecom Systems Div., Alcatel, Belden, GE Supply, Hubbell, Krone, Leviton Telcom, Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Mohawk/CDT, Ortronics, Panduit, Siecor, TrippLite, Tyco, and Wavetek Wandel Goltermann.

In her opening remarks before the exhibition, Phoebe Forsythe Isales, president of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico, referred to the island as the "electronic gateway to the Caribbean." Indeed, the island has one of the fastest-growing information-technology (IT) sectors in the region, and Microsoft held its Caribbean launch of Windows 2000 concurrently at the Caribe Hilton. Puerto Rico is the site of Microsoft's Caribbean headquarters.

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The University of Puerto Rico's Rio Piedras campus boasts state-of-the-art distance-learning facilities.
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In addition to a strong IT market, the island has seen growth in telecommunications competition since deregulation in 1996. Numerous CLECs have sprung up to challenge the dominant carrier, Puerto Rico Telephone, but "opening the doors to competition is not as easy as it appears," noted Isales.

The show floor was filled not only with vendors, but also with local systems integrators and installation firms. B&B Communications (bbcom@coqui.net) and Global Services Inc. (www.gsipr.com) were on hand to promote their networking services, and both report that demand for local-area-network design and installation has grown rapidly in Puerto Rico over the last few years. Another exhibitor, TAD Telecom Inc. (www.tadtelecom.com), touted its training and placement of temporary telecommunications workers in an industry strapped for trained installers.

An example of the local market for data-communications products is the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), a pioneer of local-area and wide-area networking on the island. According to Alfredo Figueroa, director of IT services at UPR, the 274-acre Rio Piedras campus in San Juan was the first networked campus in Puerto Rico. The 155-Mbit/sec Asynchronous Transfer Mode network that serves the 22,000 students and administrators includes a singlemode and multimode fiber backbone of Siecor cable, horizontal links of Category 5E cable from Mohawk/ CDT, and duplex MiniJack ports from Panduit. Installed 12 years ago, the network is about to undergo a backbone upgrade to enable it to become part of the Internet 2 consortium. Under construction is a six-tower dormitory facility that will include Internet connectivity to each dorm room.

Destroyed in 1998 by Hurricane Georges, the mass communications school has been completely rebuilt. Among the applications enabled by the UPR network is distance-learning. Connected to other UPR campuses on the island by dedicated T1 1.554-Mbit/sec lines running Integrated Services Digital Network, the network offers students more course choices and saves the university money because the same professor can teach on several campuses simultaneously. The university is also linked to educational consortia in the United States via a satellite network.
-Catherine Varmazis

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